Ask Timea Bacsinszky if she thought this season would be going as well as it has and even the charming Swiss would have to say ‘no’.
She’s no doubt been one of the WTA’s most pleasant surprises in 2015, but Bacsinszky isn’t alone.
Here are five players who have similarly made strides in the rankings so far in 2015, with Bacsinszky heading the list.
Timea Bacsinszky: Indeed if, at the end of last season, someone would have told you that a Swiss player would win two titles, reach another final and string together a 15-match winning streak, Belinda Bencic might have been the most logical choice.
The teen shone in 2014, highlighted by a quarterfinal run at the US Open and semifinal in Charleston.
Bencic hasn’t taken off just yet in 2015, but Bacsinszky is making sure the Swiss women haven’t been forgotten in singles. Advancing to the finale in Shenzhen in January turned out to be a sign of things to come for Bacsinszky, who has spoken openly about why she quit tennis for a while and her family struggles.
Bacsinszky’s serve allows her to win some free points, but it’s the two-handed backhand that truly sticks out – it’s one of the best in the business.
They are, after all, the top three Czechs in the rankings, inside the Top 15. Kvitova is a two-time major winner, Pliskova is closing in on the Top 10 and Safarova has been one of the most consistent players on the tour the last five years.
At 5-foot-4 and a half, Strycova seems to be an anomaly among the towering Czechs, but she has a pleasing all-court game that has given the top players trouble this season.
While she’s dipped a little lately, losing three in a row, the feisty former junior No.1 excelled in her first four tournaments.
Claiming a second career singles title, after Québec City in 2011, is a realistic target.
Lesia Tsurenko: When some players fall outside the Top 100 or even lower, you wonder why. Just based on their games, it seems strange.
Case in point: Tsurenko. A power baseliner with a ferocious two-handed backhand, the Ukrainian found herself ranked No.170 last year at Wimbledon.
It was a far cry from the start of 2013, when Tsurenko sparkled during the Australian summer.
Now she’s back inside the Top 60 (at No.56) – and she’ll be hoping it’s for good.
Tsurenko qualified and landed in the quarterfinals in Indian Wells, and some of her losses this year have come against Madison Brengle in Brisbane (a stretch where the American flourished), Angelique Kerberin Sydney, Madison Keys in Melbourne (we know what she ended up doing there) and Bacsinszky in Acapulco and Monterrey (and guess who won both of those tournaments?)
With Elina Svitolina around, Ukraine seems to have regained a solid 1-2 punch.
Alexandra Dulgheru: With Halep around, these are halcyon days for Romanian tennis.
Irina Camelia Begu, and Dulgheru, however, are making for a fine supporting cast.
Dulgheru’s resurgence is particularly warming, since her bouts with injury weren’t just one of those cases where a player misses a week or two here or there.
Dulgheru didn’t play for much of 2011 and most of 2012 with a knee problem. The timing couldn’t have been worse, since she surged to a career-high of No.26 earlier in 2011. A wrist injury then hampered Dulgheru in 2013 and 2014.
Thus, who wouldn’t have been happy for Dulgheru when she made her first final in five years in Kuala Lumpur (outlasting Jarmila Gajdosova in a three hour semifinal, then still having enough the next day to take a set off Caroline Wozniacki)?
She must be looking forward to playing on clay, her favorite and most productive surface, in the next couple of months.
Lucie Hradecka: When discussing the subject of titles, Hradecka, Strycova’s fellow Czech (and yes, a tall one), probably merits one since she’s made six finals.
Better known for her doubles play with Andrea Hlavackova – they reunited this year – Hradecka is streaky in singles, but when she gets it right, as she did in Charleston by reaching the semifinals, she’s difficult to stop. The serve remains one of the biggest on the tour.
Yet even before Charleston, Hradecka showed life in singles, finding herself inside the Top 40 on the Road To Singapore leaderboard after Charleston.
Hradecka has played qualifying in seven events in 2015 and succeeded in getting to the main draw five times – including Charleston.